News / Africa

Disabilities Prevent Aging Africans from Being Productive

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
Africa’s rapidly aging population is developing disabilities that limit their ability to be productive, according to a study conducted by researchers in the U.S. and Malawi.  It also found that women and men 45 years of age had severe limitations comparable to 80 year olds in the US. 

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania said the findings are significant as older people with functional limitations have difficulty performing work that is required in their agricultural settings.  If not addressed, the economic consequences could be devastating to the income of families whose livelihoods depend on food production. 

Collin Payne, lead researcher  of the study, and graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, explained that the data that was used was based on the Malawi Longitudinal Study of Families and Health.  It’s an ongoing look at rural populations in Malawi conducted by the University of Pennsylvania.

“What we’re measuring are different kinds of inabilities to perform daily life activities in this rural context-- so taking care of livestock, helping out on the farm, these types of activities.  We find that women at age 45 expect to spend about 60 percent of their remaining life unable to do some of these tasks.  For men, the figures are about 40 percent.  And as individuals age older and older, their remaining life that they can do some of these daily activities, it’s shorter and shorter,”  explained Payne.     

While the study did not focus on any particular diseases that would have contributed to the rapid deterioration of physical abilities, Payne said the decline in their health could very well be attributed to a life time of hardship starting at birth.  

“I think in large part, it is due to sort of this overall life-long burden of disability.  From birth to death there’s a lot of exposure to chronic, communicable and non-communicable diseases burdened with some periods of under-nutrition early in the life course. So by the time people are reaching their mid-forties and fifties, they’ve already experienced a lot of pressures on their health, and these are compounded later in the later life,” said Payne.    

As a result, he said, there needs to be a revision of current national health policies and international donor funded health programs.

The lead researcher noted, “I think in large part what could help individual health is a larger focus from individual countries in the region, larger non-governmental organizations, and other policy groups, to expand availability of basic health care services to this population.  It is a very underserved population.  It’s a population that is growing rapidly.  In 2010, the population over 45 years in sub-Saharan Africa was only 10 percent of the population.  U.N. projections say that by 2060 it’s going to be a quarter of the population.”     

Dr. Hans Peter Kohler, another of the researchers of the study, agreed with Payne that most health interventions have focused on communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and other diseases like malaria. 

However, Kohler said their study is significant in that it points out that there should more health care policies that focus on chronic illnesses and disabilities.

“We know from other studies that pain is presumably a very big issue.  And so, what we are arguing here is that these disease patterns and the effect on the economic implications are not very well understood, but they’re very dramatic in the sense about how much they actually limit an individual’s abilities to work and perform day to day tasks,” explained Kohler.       

The researchers of the study agreed that investing in the health of older men and women will also bring about improvements in the quality of their lives but also, boost economic growth for generations to come.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs